Bipartisan Senate Bill Encourages Cyber Collaboration between Public and Private Sectors

China Tech Threat applauds the “Cybersecurity Competitions to Yield Better Efforts to Research the Latest Exceptionally Advanced Problems Act of 2020’’ or ‘‘Cyber Leap Act of 2020’’ sponsored by U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo.  Just as effective policy to combat Chinese technology threats requires robust efforts to ensure the supply of information technologies, policymakers need to recognize and support the role of innovation and research to improve cybersecurity overall. This bill takes some valuable steps to by establishing a series of “Cybersecurity Grand Challenges” These are  competitions to be administer by the Department of Commerce on the economics of a cyber attack, cybersecurity workforce, emerging technology, digital identity, and federal government cybersecurity.   This innovative approach provides incentive for a variety of public and private sector actors to compete for awards and cash prizes to be funded from pools multiple federal agencies and non-federal entities. 

The bill appears to reflect in part a thesis from the recent book by Christian Brose The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare of America’s deteriorating military power from earlier supremacy and dynamism. The book suggests that increasing bureaucratic inertia has caused valuable scientific and innovative capacity to exit the military and national laboratories for industry. Meanwhile China has vastly increased its military capability in concert with its national tech champions and plans to leverage artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and other emerging technologies to supplant the US.

The Cyber Leap Act of 2020 is one of many Congressional efforts to address China’s growing “techno-nationalism”, its global strategy for geo-political military-industrial dominance. CTT has recognized other important bills such as the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act and the Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping (C-CAS) Act. While restrictions on Huawei are important and necessary to improve network security, particularly at the transport level, networks are still vulnerable from an array of Chinese technologies in the access and application layers. For example, 2009 report by the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) noted that Huawei and Lenovo are in the same category as Chinese national champions capable of delivering on the techno-nationalist strategy. More than a decade of findings by the USCC have described these threats, leading Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle to express vehement opposition to Lenovo’s acquisition of valuable US technology firms in 2004, 2012, and 2014, decisions at the time subject to Executive Branch approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). In 2018 Congressman Robert Pittenger led the promulgation of the bipartisan Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) which among other things, requires CFIUS to improve its reporting to Congress and the public about sensitive investment transactions, particularly those involving China. American taxpayers are still paying the price for these ill-advised acquisitions, including $378 million to replace US military servers which would otherwise go to Lenovo and we subject to Chinese government purview.

Senators Wicker, Rosen, and Gardner crossed the isle during a fractious political environment to make important legislation to improve cybersecurity for all Americans.